An Update On My Own Low Carb Success Story

Success Stories

Last week I celebrated my two-year anniversary of low carbing. I have had many requests to share “my story” with my online support groups. In doing so, I received dozens of online and offline thank you notes from people for sharing not only the ups, but the downs, and all the mistakes, revelations, and lessons I have learned along the way.

I had no idea that “telling all,” even with all the mistakes I had made along the way, would help so many people who are out there struggling. I realized then that I needed to share with you, my CarbSmart readers, also, in the hope that this will touch and help some of you out there as it did my fellow listmates.

When I first started writing this column for CarbSmart Magazine in January of 2001, I began, as an introduction, with my own story: If you haven’t read that, I suggest you start there before you continue. This is a long story, so grab your water!

In many ways I am a poster child for what not to do with a low carb diet. I hope I am also able to be an inspiration, ray of hope, incentive to dig deeper, look inward, dare to try, for those who are struggling.

The important thing for you to remember, no matter how hard you are struggling is that the only way to fail is to quit…. I have always kept that in my mind, every day for the last two years.

You will learn more about your individual body, what works, what doesn’t, and the reasons for your personal weight problem through low carb eating more than any other “diet” you have ever tried before. Listen to your body, what it tells you when you are on track and what it tells you when you are off track. It will tell you what you need to do.

When I first started I just melted…… 15 pounds the first week and 20 pounds in two weeks, I believe. I was amazed and thrilled. I was also really afraid of carbohydrates that first two weeks and was strictly eating “basic REAL foods” ……no cream, no treats (except sugar free Jell-O, and an occasional sugar free soda), no processed foods. Note: Lesson #1: eat real food!

It took me 5 months to lose the next 19 pounds. But I was still so happy, the inches were coming off, and each month I could get in clothes I hadn’t worn in ages. But after my first two weeks I started playing with this way of eating and found myself caving. First a bit of ice cream. “To take away the terrible sugar cravings,” I would tell myself, instead of using sugar free Jell-O or a diet soda. Then it was a small bowl…… and you know what? I would wake up the next day with a 1, 2, 3-pound loss!!!! I was thinking, “Oh I love this way of eating!! Cheat and lose after been stuck for a week or two!!!”

I know now I was not eating enough and the added carbohydrates threw me out of starvation mode, which is reason for the loss. I “should have” upped my carbs with low carb vegetables, not SUGAR!! I actually told my husband early on, “I NEED to have the ice cream in the freezer to jump start my weight loss again.” What did he know about it? I was losing! So, he agreed! HA! (I will say that the ice cream was my only “cheat;” I had no problem resisting or being tempted by what my family ate things like potatoes, rice, or junk food.)

Well, the sugar would set me off with insulin spikes. I was still a newbie, remember, and didn’t really know or realize how all this worked with my body. I fought sugar cravings for months, not near the extent I had pre-low carb, not by a long shot, but they were still there occasionally. I continued to lose until late January of 2001 (by then I was down 39 pounds), at which time I discovered low carb treats like chocolate mousse, (I see all you who have known me for 2 years going “OH, YEAH, I remember that!”) heavy whipping cream, low carb shakes (totally tweaked with whipping cream, fruit (berries), cream cheese, and low carb root beer floats….. Hey? It was low carb!!!

Well, the mousse became near daily, so were the shakes and floats. At the time, my daughter was low carbing with me. My ‘recipe’ for shakes made 2 huge 16-ounce glasses… YUM! I had one every day for lunch. But my weight loss stalled. Was I worried? No, because “a true stall” is “no weight or inch loss for over a month.” I continued into February…..

All this time, mind you, I cheated, not every day, or every week….. but I never went more than three weeks in 1 1/2 years where I didn’t cheat, even though I was actually I was low carb 99% of the time. It would begin by going over my critical carbohydrate level (which technically is the same as a cheat, in my opinion) with low carb foods and treats. This would set off cravings (going over your critical carb level will throw you out of ketosis and you will lose the natural appetite and craving suppressant that being in ketosis supplies). This sometimes would lead to a “real” cheat (HyVee bakery here I come, there is a fresh baked turnover there with my name on it), which sometimes led to a full blown binge, even if for “just” an hour. But you can’t believe the crap I could stuff in my face “in just an hour.” All the time telling myself, “Ahhhhhhh, a CALP-style reward meal. Get it all in you in an hour, no damage!” HAHAHAHA….. NOT!

Slowly the weight started to come back on a pound at a time. I blamed fluctuations (daily weight fluctuations are normal and to be expected), water retention (too much salt, or going over my critical carb level which, since low carbing is a natural diuretic, will cause water weight gain temporarily), my hormone replacement medications. (Birth control, hormone replacement, and some other medications are known problems with weight gain.) I blamed anything but my cheating and stress eating.

Eventually, about March of 2001, my daughter stopped low carbing. She had “fallen off the wagon” and was happy with her 35-pound loss. But my lunch time “shake recipe” never varied (except that I gradually added more and more berries), and hey, I couldn’t “waste” all of it. So, instead of drinking just “my” 16-ounce of “heaven” each day, I had my daughter’s too!!. OUCH!

By the time we took our first Las Vegas vacation in June of 2001, I was up to 230 pounds from my January low of 216!

I had planned this first time visit to Vegas (knowing full well the food was going to be the reason they call it “Sin City”), as a CAD/CALP eating experience. But not for this girl! That first bite of sugar set me off and I rolled in carbohydrates 24/7 for 7 days. This was the longest I had ever gone off plan in my 2 years of low carbing. I came home 13 pounds heavier, I think! My feet were swollen all the way to my knees, to the point where my skin actually hurt. I was bloated and barely able to walk.

I jumped back on “the wagon” and lost my typical 6 to 8 pounds of water weight (initial weight loss/gain, because low carbing is dehydrating, is just water), but I was still up from my pre-vacation weight. However my eating patterns didn’t change.

Slowly the weight crept up, a pound here, a pound there, up, down, up, down, up, up, up, down. To the point where, four months ago (in May of 2002), I had not only regained all the weight I had lost, but was 7 pounds heavier than I started!

I had to take a good, long, hard look at myself. Hey, I knew all about this way of eating! I council people in it every single day! I was healthy, finally, no more indigestion or lethargy after eating, and my blood work was normal for the first time ever because I low carbed. I had endless energy, my hair, skin, and nails were in the best condition ever. I didn’t have bloating so badly that my skin hurt. I could go on and on…. but…. Why couldn’t I stop cheating?!?

For me, the answer was my stress eating. I have been a stress eater from the day I was born, I think. I always knew I stress ate, but until I examined myself thoroughly, I never even realized I WAS A STRESS EATER!

I knew I had to overcome it if I before would ever be able to make low carbing work for me. It never mattered if I was on plan 99% of the time, I cut out the treats, (I hadn’t had mousse for ages), blamed and suspected intolerance foods, (but I never actually tested them effectively), tried this, tried that. The fact was that I would still stress eat. First going by over my critical carbohydrate level and getting the cravings back, then a small cheat here or there….. then…… Ahhhhhhhhhh, binge!

Once I could actually identify the problem and say it out loud, I was able to plan an attack. I found alternate avenues for stress. I realized to begin with, that stress is just a part of life. It happens no more and no less to anyone. No matter how bad I thought mine was, the next person feels theirs is just as bad. So why do I punish myself by adding to my obesity? The very thing I have always stressed over the most my WHOLE life? Who am I punishing besides myself? The same self that needs to be comforted when she is stressed does not need to eat to the point of agony and slowly killed!

Now I have to admit that I love a good carbohydrate coma, falling into a deep, deep sleep, and sleeping for hours and hours (an old stress relief of mine). But I didn’t like the hangover, the swelling, the indigestion, the return of the ravenous hunger, the lack of control over food feeling – for example, the old “I would grab an M&M out of the garbage if it was the only sugar I could find” feeling. Most of all, I didn’t like me.

I sit on these low carb support lists for hours a day, helping other people. I have helped and aided other low carbers in the hundreds to lose thousands of pounds, but I never helped myself…. until about three and a half months ago.

What do I do for stress relief now? I exercise, I garden, but most of all, I have “me” time every single day. It doesn’t matter if things don’t get done, my list responses are backed up, my article is late, or dinner is not started. I never compromise my “me” time each afternoon.

I have learned to cry (I never used to cry), which also is a great way to get the deep sleep I used to get from a carbohydrate coma. I have learned to stop stuffing my feelings and belly ache out loud a lot. I confront problems head on, out loud, and get them over with. I have talked a lot to and greatly improved my support systems: communication with my husband, and close friends. I never had a problem babbling for hours about my past, but my present was always very privately kept in side of me.

This has helped me immensely. I go on a date with my husband once a week and let loose, dance, get stupid, and just relax and forget everything but us, even if it is just for a couple hours. I crochet and I play PC games. I enjoy the good parts of my life and focus on them. I cherish the good days, and deal with, then forget, the bad ones.

So now I am heading four months into NO stress eating and NO cheats. Was it easy? Not at first! It was one minute at a time, then one day, then one week. But, each week I have gotten so much stronger. Now, I rarely even think of cheating. That’s a miracle in itself! When stressed, I never think of eating. In fact, I find that many times have to stop and think, “You haven’t eaten in hours and hours. Go eat something!”

So now, in a little over 3 months, I am down 15 pounds and 26.5 inches. I still have plateaus and weeks with no weight loss, but that is normal. I know I have lost my “Golden Shot” (you never lose and much as fast as your very first time low carbing), but the best part is that I know that next year, when I hit my 3-year low carb anniversary, that my biggest accomplishment will not be that I am under 200 pounds for the first time since my anorexic early 20s, but that I have gone cheat/stress eating-free for over a year, because I found my answer to making low carbing work for me!

My advice to anyone who is low carbing is to sign up for online support groups. Yahoo groups is filled with over 140 low carb email lists. I know how many because I sub and lurk on them all. Some lists are better than others, and there’s not one definitive list that will be “the perfect fit” for everybody. Find one that fits your needs. A combination of great information, recipes, ideas, support, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants, is, in my humble opinion, what will help the most.

Let me close by saying thank you to all of my loyal readers, and those who drop me a note to let me know how much they enjoy the success stories I bring you each week. And I want to issue a special thanks to those who agree to share their personal story and their success with this way of eating with all of you.

I will update again, next year, on my third anniversary, but until then, if you’d like to “keep tabs” on my progress, or are in need of support yourself, I’d like to invite you to join me, and hundreds of others on my own support lists at Yahoo Groups. You can find us here:

Julie is the editor of Low Carb RESOURCE Newsletter, a free once a month online newsletter. You can subscribe here:

She also has her own support groups on yahoo. They can be found at:


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Karen Rysavy from Colorado Low Carb Success Story

Karen Rysavy from Colorado is 38 years old and 5'11 inches tall. Karen started low carbing in 2000 doing a combination of Atkins and Protein Power but since that time has studied most of the popular low carb plans out there and implemented parts of each (the parts that worked for her) into her own personal Way of Eating. She began at 271 pounds and wearing size 24/26 and is now 210 and wearing 14/18. Karen revised her goal of a size 12 and 185 pounds to "happy and healthy". A very important goal for Karen, one which she has REACHED!

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